Monday, October 05, 2015


One of my professors from seminary ended his life recently. I had a great deal of respect for all my professors, but I have to admit there were a couple I felt more of a connection to. Gene was one of them. My friend, Lance, who is the director of our denomination, had a very nice tribute here:

Here are just a few thoughts and memories I have myself:
  • When we first moved to Findlay so I could attend seminary, the first church we connected with was call New Hope. It was a small gathering of people, led by a group of people of which Gene was one of. It seemed like just the type of church/group we had been looking for all our lives. And Gene was the first person I'd ever seen preach while sitting on a stool (instead of behind a podium). Unfortunately they decided to close the doors on the church within months of us falling in love with it.
  • I remember after they had the closing service for the church - I still hadn't talked to Gene too many times, but I could tell he was a sincere and deep thinker - and I stopped by the library when he was working one day and gave him the lyrics to the Rich Mullins tune "Peace." I'm not sure why, and he probably thought it was pretty strange, but it just felt like something I thought he needed at the time. We never discussed it.
  • I remember one other occasion during a time when I was feeling rather low and confused about life. I had a night class and he was teaching in another building, I just felt like I needed to talk to him. So I pretended to lock my keys in my car and asked him if he would take me by my house to get the other set (this was before cell phones). He did, and even though we didn't really even talk about anything important, I guess it meant something to me to just spend a bit of time with someone who I felt understood me. I know, I'm strange.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed his teaching - he taught my theology classes - and he opened my eyes perhaps like no one else ever had. He could challenge anyone's thoughts and reasoning in ways I'd never known possible. He preached in much the same way - putting a spin on things that often left me speechless, but with a mind so full like the perfect sunshiny day.
  • I'm sure the fact that he was a big Bob Dylan fan and an avid runner helped to feed the connection, but I guess I knew there was something else as well.
  • We were in a small group together with our spouses and another couple for a brief time. I never felt like he really thought much of me, but I wasn't all that concerned about it.
  • I did have him come and preach at our church one time when I was pastoring. I remember I started the service out by singing the Beatles song "Help" and had Carrie placing different images on the overhead projector while I sang (again, this was a long time ago). Gene did comment that he'd never heard anyone sing a Beatles song in church before.
  • I suppose the biggest, and maybe only, reason his suicide has impacted me so is because... almost every time I hear that someone has taken their life, I feel like, "Dang, another one of us has lost the battle." Please don't misunderstand, I am not suicidal - or even close to it - but I feel a definite connection to people like Gene who have gone that route. There, but for the grace of God, go I. I tend to think I can relate to the pain they were feeling. I feel a kindred connection in my spirit. It's almost like a part of *me* has died. There is a deep sense of longing in my soul.
  • I've heard it said that people who work those suicide hotlines are told to listen for two scenarios which mean people are serious: 1) they have thought out how they're going to go about committing suicide, and 2) they say they don't want to do it, but they just can't stand the pain anymore. I have never had a plan, but I have sensed #2. Again, I am not right now, but those times when I have been my lowest, I have probably used those exact words. I don't want to feel that way, but it hurts so much. I don't know how to describe soul pain. So when someone "does it"... I don't get upset; I understand; and my heart aches. My heart aches now.
So, that's about all I've got as far as that goes. I have fond memories of my old professor and friend. I have no judgment to make. I'm not sure if there was anything that could have been done to prevent it; I don't know. He was a remarkable person, though, and I'm glad I had the privilege of knowing him and learning from him. It is what it is. I feel bad for his family.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

15 miles

Yesterday I ran the farthest I've ever run without stopping. I actually ran 14.25 miles, and then walked another mile for a cool-down. I am counting it as 15 miles. Even my gps watch said, "Way to go!" when I was done.

It took me 2 1/2 hours, and there was an intermittent drizzle of rain. Plus it was was only about 50f and there was a brisk breeze. I wore a stocking cap, a long sleeve shirt with a sweatshirt over it, and my compression sleeves on my lower legs. I did 13.1 in 2 hrs. 6 minutes.

I actually felt pretty good through 11 miles. I have to say, though, the last few miles were killer. I don't know if it was because I'd only done 2 short runs last week, if it was because I'd just run a half the week before, or if it was because I never did stop for a drink or take any gel chews with me. I thought I was never going to get back to the house, and my lower legs were as stiff and sore as I can remember them ever being. Fortunately I didn't get any blisters, but I did forget to put anti-chaff stuff on my nipples, so they are still very raw and sore.

I do feel better today, though stairs are still a bit of a challenge. So I don't know if a marathon is in my future or not. I will attempt to still add a mile to my long run each week, but it may just be too much for me. We'll see.

Friday, October 02, 2015


I have tended to be a tad reactionary in the past. When I hear bad news, or am feeling blue, or get over stressed, I have at times reacted poorly or made rash statements or decisions. I am still feeling quite thrown by some events from this week, and when I went on my run this morning I was disappointed in how I felt physically. There is always the temptation in times like these to just say, "To hell with it," and decide to quit running, or quit caring, or quit... whatever.

For a simple soul such as myself, I've discovered that sometimes I rather need to just pause. I need to withhold judgement, reaction, decision-making... and just "be" for a time. I don't like talking about things; I don't like watching funny movies or doing something to keep my mind off things. It just takes me awhile.

So..... yeah.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Is the pro-life abortion argument possibly shallow?

So I was reading through the book of Ecclesiastes. A kindred friend, and seminary professor of mine, apparently committed suicide recently, and I just feel sort of... hollow. For some odd reason I thought I'd read through Ecclesiastes. I'm not sure if it was a good idea or not, but I did it. I read it in the version known as The Message. Again, I don't know if that was a wise choice or not, but that's what I did.

Anyway, in chapter 6, verses 3-5, the writer says:
Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves—even though they end up with a big funeral! I’d say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark—unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living.

 I realize this is not the end of the book, but it got me thinking about the abortion argument. I am not "pro-abortion," but I have never seen it as the single-issue issue that a lot of my fellow Christians seem to make it.

So, this is what ran through my mind as I read this morning: If Christians believe in eternal life, and life starts at conception (rather than at birth), then is it really all that bad that a child be aborted before entering into the world as we know it? Is it not, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says, "better off by far than anyone living?" Said "person" will never have to know hunger and thirst and heartache and disappointment. If they really are alive before birth, will they not enter into the presence of God unscathed, so to speak?

I don't know. And I'm not asking the question of anyone (I'm not looking for an answer). I'm just wondering. Could it be that we make too much of some things which aren't really all that terrible in light of eternity?

Who knows. I'm probably a heretic...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gratitude & joy

Guidepost #4 from Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' is on "Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark."

As she says on pp. 77-78:
  • Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.
  • Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us.
  • People were quick to point out the differences between happiness and joy as differences between a human emotion that's connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that's connected to practicing gratitude.

I think it's interesting she found that gratitude is so much more than an attitude, because attitudes don't always translate to behaviors. Rather, gratitude comes more from practice. The people she interviewed spoke of keeping gratitude journals, doing daily gratitude meditations or prayers, creating gratitude art, and even stopping during stressful, busy days to actually say out loud: "I am grateful for..." As she says, it's like gratitude without practice is a little like faith without works - it's not alive.


As for joy, she quotes Adela Rogers St. Johns
Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness. Happiness is a sort of atmosphere you can live in sometimes when you're lucky. Joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.

As Brene says, "Happiness is tied to circumstances and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude."

She also quotes Anne Robertson, a Methodist pastor, writer, and director of the Mass Bible Society. She explains how the Greek origins of the words happiness and joy hold different meaning for us today.
She explains that the Greek word for happiness is Makarios, which was used to describe the freedom of the rich from normal cares and worries, or to describe a person who received some form of good fortune, such as money or health. Robertson compares this to the Greek word for joy which is chairo. Chairo was described by the ancient Greeks as the "culmination of being" and the "good mood of the soul." Robertson writes, "Chairo is something, the ancient Greeks tell us, that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. It isn't a beginner's virtue; it comes as the culmination. They say the opposite is not sadness, but fear."

She notes the things that get in the way of gratitude and joy are 'scarcity & fear.'

The opposite of scarcity is not abundance - joy is not going to be a constant, but rather, "a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith."

We have to resist the urge to think to ourselves:
  • I'm not going to allow myself to feel this joy because I know it won't last.
  • Acknowledging how grateful I am is an invitation for disaster.
  • I'd rather not be joyful than have to wait for the other shoe to drop.


This was a good chapter, but I'm preoccupied at the moment. So that's it for now. I will end with this quote shared from Marianne Williamson:

"Joy is what happens to use when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I got another haircut today. For the second time in a row I went to the Great Clips on Dupont. I was on my way to the bank and saw that there weren't many people there, so I thought "What the heck." I like that place. It's super convenient, and I've liked both haircuts.

This time I had Lakendra. She gave me a nice cut, but she was also just so relaxing. She didn't talk much, and when she did it was very soothing. This was just the relaxing kind of haircut I needed.

As usual it was the #4 on top and #2 on the sides, with the back rounded. She also did my eyebrows. I keep thinking I'm going to start cutting it myself but sometimes it's nice to just sit and have someone else do it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Another half done

I ran my third half marathon this past Saturday as part of the 8th annual Fort 4 Fitness Fall Festival. Actually, I ran this one with not only Jane (for the 2nd time), but Drew Carrie also ran their first! I was very impressed with them, and we all lived to tell about it.

They changed the starting spot this year to accommodate the new bus station, but it was basically the same course as before. I think they also moved the start time back this year - to 8:30. Once again it was a beautiful day. It was in the low 60's at the start and was an overcast mid-70's later in the day, so it was not cold but also not hot at all.

Jane and I both started in the "J" corral, and Drew Carrie were in "L". We probably should have both been in "K" but it didn't matter much. Drew Carrie passed us not far into the race, but we stayed just behind them the rest of the way. Jane and I both even stopped to pee once each. We also took along (and ate) some energy gels for the first time. I don't really know if they helped much or not, but they didn't hurt. I also took more drinks than ever before - though I need to remember to stick to water instead of gatorade. I don't much care for gatorade. I really don't even need water during a half, other than to wash down the gels.

As for the race itself, it was okay. I think there were fewer half runners this year than previously. There used to be around 2500, and this year there were just over 2000. The biggest annoyances for me were the couple who were following some app on their phone where they alternated running and walking. When they ran they would sprint ahead of people, and then stop right in front of them to walk. They had no consideration for anyone else, and just annoyed me in general. There was also a mentally "challenged" spectator around the 12-mile point who wanted to give people high fives, except he would get right in front of you and stop. He did it to Jane. Not a good thing to do to someone who's been running for over 2 hours. I'm not blaming him, but someone should have done something because I can't believe no one got hurt.

I was only slightly annoyed by the fact there were 4-mile finishers at the same time we were finishing. The 4-mile leaders were running at a way faster pace than we were, and it just kind of takes a little out of you to watch them blow past you at the end of a long race.

For some reason I just wasn't in a very good mood the whole day. I really love this event, and the race went fine. I was annoyed that I drank too much on Friday though, and I didn't feel the greatest. My knees were also uncharacteristically sore while running. Not that I was in pain, but I just had the sinking feeling that there was no way I could ever run a full marathon. Now that I've had time to think about it though, and since I felt fine after it was over, I think it was from drinking too much alcohol and not enough water. So that's something I can fix. I hope.

Drew Carrie finished in 2 hrs. 25 minutes. Jane and I came in at 2:27. I think that was just over 11-minute miles, which is almost exactly what we ran it in 2 years ago. I ran my first half marathon in 1:47; which was just over 8-minute miles. At this point I can't really imagine how I did that, however I never did really even breathe hard for this one.

So... while I seemed to be a little out of it from the start (we were late leaving the house to begin with), it was another fun day of running through town. I would say I felt better after this one than any before. I didn't even have any blisters or nipple chaffing! That's always a plus. Can't wait til next year!

Here is a pic of our traditional post-race beer...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Musical equipment purchases & repairs

The above Tradition guitar is one of son Isaac's first "real" musical instruments. This is what he used from middle school through college to pound out everything from Metallica to Hendrix to the hardcore stuff he did later. It holds a lot of memories not only for him, but for his mother and me as well.

He has 3 guitars with him in Atlanta, and this one he left at our house (along with a couple of my own). Somewhere along the line the nut broke in half. I finally decided to replace it the other day.

I googled how to replace the nut, and it seemed easy enough. So I swallowed hard and went to Guitar Center to buy one. Ugh. I hate going there - it's the musicians equivalent of going to Walmart - but they had what I needed. A young girl waited on me and when I told her I needed a guitar nut she thought for a moment, then showed me the wall where they hung. She told me I could just go behind the counter and find what I needed. It's not that she wasn't helpful, but... anyway... I found one that was close enough to what I was looking for.

It wasn't really all that difficult to replace. The old one snapped right off, and this one needed some sanding to sit at the same level. I also adjusted the string height from the other end somewhat. I used a 50/50 mix of glue and water to seat it (something they suggested on the google video). So now the Tradition works again.

I did manage to also find out that this particular guitar was made in October of 2001. It is listed in the 2002 catalog.

While at Guitar Center I also picked up a drum key for the drum set in the basement. They sound much better (as much as is possible anyway). I still have no idea what I'm doing on the drums, but at least I have a key to keep them somewhat in tune.

Friday, September 25, 2015

To coach or couch

So, the other day I received the annual reminder to renew my coaching certificate. Ugh. There is a $75 fee and I must take at least one class (roughly $400) each year to retain my credentials as a certified leadership coach.

I don't know that it's unreasonable, but I'm not sure I can continue to justify the cost when I'm not making anything from it. I have still not had a single paying customer, so I guess I need to decide if this is really something I want to pursue, or if I might as well just give up and cut my losses.

It would be different if I had a job where this was useful, or if I even had some prospects (on a job, or clients). And, really, I don't even know that it's about the money so much.

Meh... Only gypsies are made in a day. I guess.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Preparing for this year's half-marathon

I am getting ready to run my 3rd half-marathon this Saturday at Fort Wayne's annual Fort 4 Fitness Fall Festival. This is probably the best and most-prepared I have felt out of all of them. My legs, knees and feet are feeling pretty good (just a slight soreness in my right foot now and then).

I also think my training has been better for this half than it was in other years. And by better I mean, I've been running less.  In 2012 and 2013 I was running more, longer, and faster - and my legs were more worn out because of it. If I remember correctly, I was having to ice my knees after long runs in those previous years. This year I've only used ice once, and that was on my right foot a couple weeks ago.

This year my prep has been to run (usually) 5-6 miles three days per week, a 4th day of 3-4 miles, and then a longer run. I usually upped the long run by a mile each week. Last Sunday I/we did 11 miles, which was the longest we will run prior to the 13.1-mile half. I've been doing my 3-6 mile runs around 9-10 minute miles (though only recently), and the longer runs at 11-12 minute miles. I think running less and slower has made my body feel much better.

I was probably in the best shape for the 1st half I ran in 2012, which I finished in 1 hr 47 minutes. I was completely exhausted by the time I did it though, and I had to take quite awhile off for my knees to recover afterward. The next year I was running with Jane, helping her complete her 1st half, and we ran it in 2:26. I felt better after that race, but then I got the plantar fasciitis. Even though I ran the 10k at the Fort4Fitness in 2014, I had just quit smoking, and I'm basically trying to forget that entire year.

I have only made one run this week in preparation for the half. After the 11 miles Sunday, I took off completely Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I did a moderate 3-4 mile run, and I hope to maybe walk a mile or two on Friday.

Another big difference between this year and previous years is that the Fort4Fitness this last weekend in September is not the culmination of my running season this year. I am still considering the full marathon in November (and am leaning heavily towards it), so I'm merely considering this as part of my training. I would like to keep increasing my long runs each week - maybe working up to 18 or 20 for the longest before the marathon - and I would like to work towards averaging around 9-minute miles over the entire course. I don't want to rush it, or push myself to run faster than I can, but the difference between 10-minute miles versus 11-minutes is 26 minutes over the race. Doing 9-minutes instead of 11 would cut off almost an entire hour. Non-stop running for 4 hours sounds much better than non-stop running for 5 hours. So... we will see.

Further thoughts I'm having about the full marathon... If I decide to NOT do it this year, it's because I'm worried about my knees or if my right foot doesn't come out of this funk (or if something were to happen during the half). If that's the case, I would like to spend some time working out to gain more leg strength, and shoot for next year. However, if I feel good at the end of this year's half, then I'm thinking I may as well go for it. Who knows what my life will be like next year. Plus, completing this marathon would qualify me for the Boston Marathon... ya know. :) Certainly it's not something I HAVE to do, but it probably tops my bucket list of things I'd like to do (simply running a marathon, not necessarily Boston), and I don't really have that much else going on in my life right now. So, again, we will see.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hope (or, a resilient spirit)

Getting back to Brene Brown's nice little book 'The Gifts of Imperfection.' The chapter with Guidepost #3 is my favorite so far. It is on "Cultivating A Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness."

The basic premise of this chapter revolves around this question:
Why can some people cope with stress and trauma in a way that allows them to move forward in their lives, and why do other people appear more affected and stuck?
In discussing resilience, she notes the 5 most common factors of resilient people:
  • They are resourceful and have good problem-solving skills.
  • They are more likely to seek help.
  • They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.
  • They have social support available to them.
  • They are connected with others, such as family or friends.
So, maybe you're asking the same question I did at this point: What about the rest of us who are totally messed up and not like that!? Well, fortunately, she says there is more involved. According to her research spirituality is the very foundation needed to have any hope. And I like her definition:
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.
 From this foundation of spirituality she says 3 other significant patterns also emerged as being essential to resilience.:
  • Cultivating hope
  • Practicing critical awareness
  • Letting go of numbing and taking the edge off vulnerability, discomfort, and pain.

I felt just as she says she used to, that hope is nothing more than an emotion - a warm feeling of optimism and possibility. But she found it is not. Hope is NOT an emotion; it's a way of thinking or a cognitive process. (This is huge!) She says she discovered hope happens when:
  • We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go).
  • We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternate routes (I know how to get there, I'm persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
  • We believe in ourselves (I can do this!).
 She writes this on p. 66:
So, hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them, and believing in our own abilities... And, if that's not news enough, here's something else: Hope is learned!... I think it's so empowering to know that I have the ability to teach my children how to hope. It's not a crapshoot. It's a conscious choice.
THAT is some powerful stuff there. We can learn to be hopeful!


Practicing critical awareness is about reality-checking the messages and expectations that drive the "never good enough" gremlins in our minds. She says we need to be able to ask and answer these questions:
  1. Is what I'm seeing real? Do these images convey real life or fantasy?
  2. Do these images reflect healthy, Wholehearted living, or do they turn my life, my body, my family, and my relationships into objects and commodities?
  3. Who benefits by my seeing these images and feeling bad about myself? (Hint: This is ALWAYS about money and/or control).

As far as dealing with difficult emotions (such as shame, grief, fear, despair, disappointment, and sadness), she says she found several things to be true:
  1. Most of us engage in behaviors (consciously or not) that help us to numb and take the edge off of vulnerability, pain, and discomfort.
  2. Addiction can be described as chronically and compulsively numbing and taking the edge off of feelings.
  3. We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.
Again, she believes we all numb and take the edge off to some degree, but the question is, ..."Does our _____ (eating, drinking, spending, gambling, saving the world, incessant gossiping, perfectionism, sixty-hour workweek) get in the way of our authenticity? Does it stop us from being emotionally honest and setting boundaries and feeling like we're enough? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connected? Are we using it to hide or escape from the reality of our lives?"

She ends the chapter with a couple nice paragraphs:
Feelings of hopelessness, fear, blame, pain, discomfort, vulnerability, and disconnection sabotage resilience. The only experience that seems broad and fierce enough to combat a list like that is the belief that we're all in this together and that something greater than us has the capacity to bring love and compassion into our lives...

...Whether we're overcoming adversity, surviving trauma, or dealing with stress and anxiety, having a sense of purpose, meaning, and perspective in our lives allows us to develop understanding and move forward. Without purpose, meaning, and perspective, it is easy to lose hope, numb our emotions, or become overwhelmed by our circumstances. We feel reduced, less capable, and lost in the face of struggle. The heart of spirituality is connection. When we believe in that inextricable connection, we don't feel alone.
 As I said at the beginning, this is good, good stuff. Finding hope (or having resilience) can be done; it can be learned. It can also be practiced. It's not going to just happen, but over time, going one step at a time, our lives can become better. I believe it has something to do with faith.

 "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
                                                      ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Categorizing the spiritual disciplines

The message this past Sunday was on the Spiritual Disciplines. The speaker was using Acts 12:25-13:15;42-52 as his main text.

The main point was: The spiritual disciplines are anchors for the soul. They don't transform our lives, but they often put us in a position to be transformed.

I was interested in what the speaker had to say because I have always fancied myself as someone very "into" the spiritual disciplines. I enjoy reading Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, James Bryan Smith, Brennan Manning, and the like. In fact, I was just thinking that if I ever did get back into ministry of any kind, it just might be as a spiritual formation pastor.

At any rate, one thing that struck me Sunday - something I don't recall hearing or reading before but I can't imagine that I've never known this - the speaker stated that there are basically two categories of spiritual disciplines:
  • Disciplines of increased activity - Bible reading, prayer, tithing, fellowship/community, and confession.
  • Disciplines of reduced activity - Fasting, silence/solitude, rest, frugality, and simplicity.
Again, I'm not sure how I would have missed that, but I believe it: the classic spiritual disciplines involve either adding something more to our lives, or the removal of something from our lives.

So it got me to kind of wanting to go through James Bryan Smith's "Good and Beautiful" series of books again. I think it would be neat to do it with a group of people.

I also liked how, on this particular Sunday, we placed the four communion stations in the center of the room. The idea was that communion, and therefore Christ, was to be at the center of everything we did. We were also to contemplate which, if any, spiritual disciplines God might be asking us to move into at this time.

I can't say that I received a real clear indication, but I felt like Simplicity and Fasting were two areas I was being led into. I kind of miss the days when we lived in the parsonage and all our possessions would fit in a single truck. I also think I need to pursue fasting on a couple of levels: the idea of giving some things up.

So... that's what I think about that. Today.